Facebook and Commenting Systems: Still Some Open Questions

I’ve always been quite interested in commenting systems for the Independent Web, and when it came time to redesign this site, I chose to use Disqus, an independent company that is a leader in the space. Disqus has its detractors, but it has many more fans. The company has nearly 1 million sites using the services and is rolling out new features very quickly.

I did make a conscious choice to *not* use Facebook’s Commenting system. And while I could have justified the decision on pure features (I think Disqus still wins there), it’s more based on my belief in the Independent Web. I prefer to not have this valuable portion of my own domain controlled by a major identity platform with which I have some basic philosophical differences. (In short, I do not agree with the company’s stance on identity, among a few other things).

However, I was curious if others felt the same way. Apparently, the answer is no, if the numbers are any indication. Last night I asked this question on Quora: How many websites use facebook commenting? I’m curious if the service is growing, slowing, or flat?  I also emailed people I know at Facebook, and tweeted it. By this morning, Facebook gave me the answer (oddly, it did not show up on Google search, but that may because the two companies are retarded when it comes to sharing access to each other’s platforms. That’s a whole ‘nother story).

In short, Disqus was at around 750,000 sites as of May of this year. Four months later, in August, Facebook reported that it was at 400,000 sites. That’s darn good given the service is not yet one year old.

Now my question is this: What is the makeup of sites that use Facebook Comments versus Disqus, WordPress, or others like LiveFyre? I’d wager the sites using Facebook tend to be larger publishers, as well as very small publishers who are mainly hobbyists. I’d be very interested in the answer to that question. Any takers?

55 thoughts on “Facebook and Commenting Systems: Still Some Open Questions”

  1. Hmm, I rarely see Facebook comments and was curious about this too. For me it was curious to follow how GigaOm implemented Facebook, then made two tabbed own commenting system and Facebook one, and then removed Facebook one.
    In the end I myself comment less on sites where Facebook is used, it feels like a wrong “mask” to use on most sites, like coming dressed for a business meeting in to some pub.

      1. Well… May be not best example but it does feel inappropriate in one way or another to use in many cases, wrong person to bring on to most places on the web.

      1. Sadly no, I don’t. Was just following competition of their own comments again Facebook ones. All I can say that Facebook comments were used much only initially, afterwards it was 10 to 1 difference in favor of their own.
        I am not sure why, may be because Facebook comments are used less, or may be that’s because their UI was made so that Facebook is one click away, while their own was default.
        In the end I guess FB comments were almost not used so they did not see reason to support it.

  2. Disqus’ distribution is fairly spread out, from the smallest Tumblogs to the CNNs and Engadgets and every size / shape in between. Pretty spread out by category too.

    It’s hard to tell FB’s current growth and composition. They had a good bump in the months after they announced their revamp in Feb, although FYI, they’ve actually had their comments widget around since Feb 2009 if I remember correctly.

    Regarding @wonderwhy-er ‘s comment about how FB “feels like the wrong mask.” It depends on the individual community. For some it can fit very well. In aggregate, though, we do see a low percentage of commenters logging in via Facebook (< 10%) so what he said may be empirically true.

  3. Hi John – I don’t have an answer for you but I do have a question. I’m curious as to why you didn’t choose to use the built-in comment system and perhaps add some plugins for the social functionalities? What was it that sold you on using a third-party commenting system?

      1. Fair enough John. I’ve used Disqus and Livefyre but went back to using the WordPress commenting system as it also ties into my real-time analytics. However if I had to choose again between Disqus and Livefyre Disqus would win. Thanks for the answer and good luck finding the final answer to your question.

  4. I went with Disqus for pretty much the same reasons you did. And so far, it has worked well. Before using it, I almost never got a comment but now at least I do get some comments occasionally.

  5. John, First of all congrats on switching to Disqus from that other what’s its name dreadful commenting system. We’re big fans of Disqus for several reasons.

    As to the segmentation of the various commenting platforms, I’m not sure if there’s a clear cut demographic parameter that bundles one group vs. the other. My guess is that you’ll see them evenly distributed from a variety point of view, but that’s just my hunch- and I’ve been following that segment closely. I think Livefyre’s market share is still small compared to the other two players.

    The big giant in the house is WordPress with their 64 million blogs, and if you take the Disqus slice from that, they have about 400,000 downloads on WordPress, so that’s still a pretty thin slice of the market. There seems to be still quite a large number of WordPress blogs using the native commenting system. Also, there are individual publishers have their own nifty native commenting systems, e.g. HuffPo, NYTimes and Gawker.

    1. I think the metric is “what do engaged blogs use” where engaged means there is an audience that engages at a reasonably high level. If you set that at, say, an average of a couple comments per post, plus say a few RTs and Facebook shares, that might wipe out a lot of those W’Press blogs. But I am not sure. Let me ask around…

      1. Engagement over the commentsphere is definitely the primordial value element of a blog that puts a discussion platform under it. You’re right that the real measure should be that level of engagement per blog or CMS being served. So the metric to hone in on might be Ave # of comments per post & compare how the various platforms fare.

  6. I had numerous problem to using FB, and that is reason why I fall with features of twitter and google+, always first in my list for any work.

  7. My former colleagues at a major publisher are moving towards Facebook commenting systems for a variety of reasons including:

    It”s where the audience is. C-level leadership focused on this point strongly. They believed audience numbers were in overwhelmingly favorable in Facebooks favor.

    Transparency. This large publisher had multiple small news outlets. Local staffing has been slashed over the years Facebook comments is supposed to usher in the transparency to evac trolls, spam, etc that sites no longer have the ability to support.

    Cost savings. Well, offsets the 3rd party solution they are currently using & possibly saves dollars on professional moderation.

  8. Thanks for writing about this, John. Facebook is a phenomenal, awesome force in how the future of the web is shaping up. Its impact is deep and far reaching, and we have yet to see how this all plays out in how people use the web.

    On the “comment system” side of things, this directly speaks to us at Disqus and we have lots of thoughts here. Disqus powers many different types of web communities (millions of sites spanning 600+ million monthly users), and we like to think that we understand, better than most, how they work. We’ve had former Disqus users switch to Facebook Comments, and many vice-versa. @JMBurns:disqus in this thread summarized it well: for some sites, it comes down to maximizing traffic, ensuring quality, and minimizing resources spent on moderating comments.

    It’s a compelling case, to be honest, and one that needs to be addressed in product philosophy. And that’s the big point: our philosophy is that building communities is much grander than simply commenting. Some publishers today view commenting as a necessity, but one with a contentious drain on resources. By forcing a muted community, it becomes easier to put things on autopilot. This can be effective, I think, but it’s fairly short-sighted.

    As content becomes more accessible, it runs the risk of being commoditized in the eyes of the reader. If publishers want build the right type of audiences, it’s going to be about offering a unique experience that cannot be commoditized: a personality-driven community that exists solely for them. Fox News is not CNN is not Al Jazeera, and the communities follow suit.

    Communities are about personalities. That’s the reason why users return to forums, message boards, reddit, 4chan, metafilter, and somethingawful. We’re confident about Disqus’ message (and even that of competitor Livefyre) because social networks cannot breed communities. What personality does your Facebook identity have? It’s a virtual representation of your address book, and there is no flex. It’s important that Facebook and Google+ can build trustworthy transaction-ready profiles, but this is the anti-thesis of what makes the online world complementary to the offline world.

    Chris Poole (moot) has awesome views on what online identities really mean for the future of the web. And Maciej of Pinboard has a beautiful writeup on online communities and the problems with the “social graph.”

    Not all of our philosophies are properly represented in today’s Disqus just yet, but we’re actively working to make sure we’re doing our part to move the web in the right direction.

    1. To me, the big difference is that Facebook insists on you using you offline name and identity.  Disqus respects my desire to post with an online identity that isn’t immediately traceable to who I am offline.  I use on online identity because my employer frankly prefers it (I work in a heavily regulated industry).  While I understand that some people will use anonymity as an excuse to abuse others, I don’t see it that way.  Destor23 might not be a “real person” but I put thought into what I write under that moniker and I want to be read and not dismissed.  If anything, I am more mannered writing under this name because I want to protect its reputation.

      Facebook’s commenting system has a lot of advantages, but I’m not willing to comment on sites that give me only that option.  Disqus has been fantastic and has allowed me to forge virtual relationships, across sites, with people who like to read and discuss what I do.  In short, I am highly impressed with you all.

    2. Spot on! An insightful view on comments + social interactivity… with some marketing advice breadcrumbs worth following. If you could combine the human instinct of sense-of belonging with the human need-for-privacy, Disqus offers a solution that you (blogger or business) cannot ignore.

  9. Daniel, thanks for your thoughtful comments, and reminder of Maciej’s post. Chris Poole’s thoughts on identity can be found in this post: http://battellemedia.com/archives/2011/11/you-are-the-platform.php for all you who might be interested. 

  10. I like disqus, especially because it follows my online identity around the Web.  I actually run into posters at other sites, the way you run into frequent commuters on the subway or people you know from the gym.  But… I have some online identities, for jobs purposes.  I’m always either destor23 or Mike M.  On Facebook I go by my full name.  And I’d frankly like to be able to say things on blogs, particularly about politics, that, while traceable to me were anyone you want to put in some very minor work, aren’t immediately apparent as me.

  11. John- Just curious if you left the 5 comments / page limit intentionally? It’s the default I believe, but on a blog like yours where there are lots of comments, it would be better from a user experience to see all of them at once. You can change your settings here: http://battellemedia.disqus.com/admin/settings/appearance/ 

  12. Yes definitely there is always been question on identity of commenter. How we can recognized that the person sharing his opinion on website related to which field and who is he/she actually. These are few popular issue web technology inventors really need to think about that.

  13. Great comment thread.

    In my experience, people who do a lot of thinking about online discourse, identity, and community may or may not like Disqus, but it’s a safe bet that they loathe Facebook.

    One of the most basic issues of online identity is the difference between officially documented real-world identity, experientially known identity within a context or community, and nonce pseudonymity. None of them guarantee good or bad behavior. Most arguments are about how they relate to “who the person really is.” The second one, experientially known identity, is arguably the most important in high-value forums, yet it has no necessary relationship with officially documented real-world identity. Which identifier is more meaningful — Kibo or James Parry, Atrios or Duncan Black, Digby or Heather Parton?

    At the heart of pseudonymous-yet-known identity is the principle that
    you are your interactions: what you write, how you react, what you know.
    Atrios and Digby made their reputations by being right. There are cases
    like that all over the internet. I know a writers’ forum where NYC
    editors and agents participate pseudonymously because they can say more
    if they aren’t themselves. Over time, that community has established who
    the experts are. Anyone can say they’re an editor or an agent. Knowing
    what real editors or real agents know is a much tougher standard.

    Facebook has come down firmly on the side of the least thoughtful and most easily abused option: online identity is what it says on your official government-issued documentation. If they didn’t foresee that that policy would be a problem, they can’t have done any real thinking or reading about online identity, because nothing could have been more predictable. Pro: it’s easy to administer. Con: it radically devalues some of the internet’s most important interactions and relationships.

    Identity isn’t the only important issue when you’re building conversational systems, but if Facebook hasn’t thought about what identity is and how it works, they haven’t thought about the other issues either, because it would have come up. And if they haven’t thought about that stuff, they aren’t going to get it right.

  14. The differences between Facebook and Disqus system are obvious, in theory Facebook is used real identity is an advantage to some extent to drive away those who want to use it to abuse others or any negative or fraudulent purpose, but anyway anyone could open up a fake profile on Facebook, so there is no 100% guarantee to be a real profile.

    My staff is opposed to Disqus allows us to build strong virtual relationships with people who are related to us, who likes to read and discuss the topics discussed here.
    Best regards!!!


  15. I lie this system, i come across it more often than any other system. Pretty convenient signing up with twitter. But if you also could sign up with Facebook, that would be totally awesome 🙂 I use it much more than twitter
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  17. I also dislike Facebook commenting system, Right now i am using “name URL” for comments in my blog but in this week i am gonna implement DISQUS commenting system in it.

  18. Pedro | eyaculacion precoz

    I totally agree because Facebook uses real identity of the user which is a great advantage because the abusers away usi making negative or fraudulent, but it is always possible that some users can open a fictitious account. so there is no 100% guarantee that it is a real profile.Congratulations on the articuo I like a lot to read and discuss the topics covered in this fantastic websiteBest regards!

    Angel Pedro

  19. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly
    about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain
    expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is
    extremely helpful for me.

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